It’s no secret that the outer boroughs are home to some of the meltiest parts of New York’s vast cultural and culinary crockpot. Like socarrat — the crunchy bits of rice at the bottom of the paella pan — the tastiest morsels are on the edges, hidden beneath layers of bomba rice, or in Flushing’s case, the 7 train. The Queens neighborhood boasts an impressive array of cuisines, with a notable East and Southeast Asian presence, many of which are among our favorite restaurants of their kind in the city. In fact, as one of the eating-est neighborhoods in town, it was next to impossible to whittle the list down to just 10 — so here are our “10” best restaurants in Flushing, a list you’ll note contains a number of ties.
10. Golden Shopping Mall/Flushing Mall/New World Mall, 41-28 Main Street/133-31 39th Avenue/40-21 Main Street, Queens
Of all of Flushing’s gastronomic assets, its varied food courts may be the most charming. Whether sussing out Happy Kenji Noodle’s Taiwanese beef noodle soup at the flashy New World Mall food court or perching on a colorful picnic bench eating shaved ice in the run-down-but-still-standing Flushing Mall, it’s easy to see their appeal. Our favorite of the bunch is the two-story Golden Shopping Mall, a mishmash of shops and stalls tucked inside an otherwise plain street-level and basement space. It’s from this location that David Shi started Xi’an Famous Foods, arguably Flushing’s most famous export. Other standouts include superlative lamb with squash and pork, shrimp, and chive dumplings at Tianjin Dumpling House, and noodles chilled or in steamy broth from Lanzhou Handmade Noodles.
9. Pop’s Diner, 44-29 Kissena Boulevard, Queens; 718-463-7719
With half a century spent slinging blue plate specials under its belt, Pop’s is a neighborhood gem. Breakfast is particularly satisfying, with sausage links as bulbous as British bangers and top notch egg cookery. Sandwiches and platters get a special boost from three proprietary hot sauces made with yellow, green and red Brazilian peppers, giving the unassuming diner a spicy edge — we like them best on Friday’s stuffed peppers.
8. Siruyeon, 150-36 Northern Boulevard, Queens; 718-461-6677
Nestled along Northern Boulevard in Murray Hill, this modest Korean cafe specializes in rice cake waffles topped with ice cream and fresh fruit. The only thing these confections have in common with traditional waffles is the shape, and the gummy, mochi-like texture is a fun alternative to sating those more sinful brunch cravings. The shop also knows its way around the savory side of rice cakes, including an above-average version of chili-spiked tteokbokki, soft rice cakes swimming in sweet, tangy chili sauce.
7. Nan Xiang Xia Long Bao, 38-12 Prince Street, Queens; 718-321-3838
Great soup dumplings are undoubtedly one of history’s proudest culinary achievements, with their bloated teardrop-shaped skins that jiggle with liquid innards and thick, spiraled tops perfect for grabbing with chopsticks. Nan Xiang’s are exemplary, the broth heady from pork or pork and crab fillings (we prefer to surf with our turf). While you could make an entire meal out of the steamy jewels, do pay close attention to the springy, slippery Shanghai udon.
6. White Bear, 135-02 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens; 718-961-2322
Long famous for its wontons in hot oil, tiny White Bear cooks some truly special pork dumplings. With sheer, springy skins and supple filling, the dough pockets are sold plain and adorned with plenty of fresh herbs and ruddy, fragrant chili oil or bobbing in mild soup with seaweed. Even steamed at home from a frozen bag, they’re some of the finest dumplings we’ve ever tasted.
5. Little Pepper, 18-24 College Point Boulevard, Queens; 718-939-7788
This brightly lit, somewhat sterile College Point hotspot is beloved for its fiery Sichuan dishes including grand hot pot presentations of chili-spiked broths meant for cooking a wide variety of proteins and vegetables like thin, marbled slices of lamb, medallions of eggplant, or plump pig kidneys. Also not to miss: transcendent mapo tofu and surf clams tossed in wasabi dressing. Give your mouth a rest from all that heat with cool, zesty cucumbers covered in crushed garlic.
4. Corner 28’s peking duck sandwich stall, 40-28 Main Street, Queens; 718-886-6628
If you see a crowd gathered on Flushing’s main drag, chances are they’ll have fluffy white bao buns in their hands from this street-level stall attached to Cantonese restaurant Corner 28. Brimming with tender, hand-carved roast duck and slips of crisp skin, the accompaniments are familiar — crunchy scallions, cucumbers, and a liberal application of hoisin sauce — but at a dollar each, the sandwiches are nothing short of cheap eats royalty. Close to the subway, it’s hard not to begin and end our neighborhood visits with these beauties.
3. Ganesh Temple Canteen/Dosa Hutt, 45-57 Bowne Street/45-63 Bowne Street, Queens; 718-460-8484/718-961-5897
Double your Desi pleasure at these unrelated vegetarian spots known for their south Indian food, including massive lentil batter dosas, savory porridges and doughnuts, and uthappam, a thicker pancake/pizza hybrid. We prefer Dosa Hutt’s eponymous crepes to those from the temple, but the walk from the The Hindu Temple Society Of North America entrance to the canteen imbues the temple cafeteria with a deific importance — or maybe that’s just how hungry we are by the time we’ve walked the long corridor that leads to the canteen’s entrance. As they’re mere feet from each other, we suggest a visit to both.
2. Fu Run, 40-09 Prince Street, Queens; 718-321-1363
The deeply-spiced flavors of Northern Chinese cuisine are on full display at this modest canteen, which preaches its gospel with massive serving dishes of mung bean jelly noodles and fall-off-the-bone lamb ribs sporting a crusty coat of cumin, sesame seeds and chilies. Make sure to save room for dessert, which finds your choice of cooked starch (most tables go for taro root) covered in molten sugar, which hardens into caramel after a dip in an accompanying bowl of cold water, creating a thin candy shell.
1. Myung San/Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi, 162-21 Depot Road/162-23 Depot Road, Queens; 718-888-1245/718-359-4583
The Cho family, led by mother/chef/owner Gap Soon Cho, have been running Myung San for over a decade, offering one of South Korea’s funkier dishes, cheonggukjang, also known as dead body soup. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, but Cho’s more familiar dishes, like crisp pajeon pancakes and pork belly ssam bap, are also on point. Better still, Ms. Cho grows much of the produce used herself. Right next door, on the same block adjacent to the Broadway Long Island Railroad stop, is Tong Sam Gyup Goo Yi, a handsome Korean barbecue joint that eschews gas or charcoal grills for wide cast-iron domes. The literal ice to your rendered pork belly’s fire, the frosty and refreshing naengmyun — a chilled buckwheat noodle soup served in a bowl made of ice — might just elicit as many jaw drops as Game of Thrones.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 17, 2014